Monthly Archives: November 2020

Why Be a Jerk?

So my sister posted a thing on Facebook. It’s likely you’ve seen it before now, but in case you haven’t, it shows Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, and Kamala Harris.

There’s some controversy around this meme, including reports that the image was plagiarized. But even before I learned that much, someone posted on my sister’s page to complain that “Kamala Harris is no Rosa Parks and by the way Rosa Parks was inspired by Claudette Colvin; where’s her recognition?” Or words to that effect.

The conversation (or diatribe) went downhill from there. The objecting (and objectionable) poster went on to launch a stream of hateful rhetoric that made me wonder how she ended up Facebook friends with Sis in the first place. Nobody changed anyone’s mind, and nothing was done to advance civilization. Complaining because this popular composite image didn’t honor every last person who’s helped advance people who have unfairly been held back misses the point of the graphic entirely.

If we’re going to pick on every possible omission we see from someone with whom we disagree, we will never find any way to heal this country. It was imperfect before Trump’s election; it will continue to worsen until he leaves office. Biden/Harris are inheriting this mess. Based on their past records (imperfect, but showing some human growth) I trust them to try their best for every American–and not just for themselves, their family, and wealthy friends.

Even with our best efforts, democracy is a work in progress. And as long as we see it as a zero-sum game (where the winner gloats and humiliates the loser), we can’t make any progress. The only way anybody moves forward from conflict is by assuming some basic humanity in the people they’re dealing with. By treating them with respect. I’m saddened by how little of that I see on social media among people who list one another as “friends.”

Personally, I don’t have time for people who are more interested in scoring points than making the world a better place. Unless you’re willing to accept that the person you’re talking to is a human being with feelings, and to converse in a respectful way, please leave them alone. As my late mother would put it: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

That’s not just making nice or being politically correct. It’s simple civility–also known as not being a jerk.